In anticipation of her book signing event 6-9 p.m., Monday, Sept. 9 at Branches Books & Gifts, Elsie (Rees) Park has been "doing practice signatures to make sure they look right," when she signs copies of her novel, "Shadows of Valor."
Branches, located at 40282 Highway 41 in Oakhurst, will be open on that Monday (usually, the store is closed on Mondays) from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to accommodate Park's book signing tour schedule.
" 'Shadows of Valor' is my debut (fictional) work," Park said. "That isn't to say that I haven't had plenty of ideas or short stories stashed away in a file, but I haven't tried publishing anything before now. I hope to continue the momentum, though."
However, this 1995 Yosemite High School graduate has had items published in the high school yearbook, the "Tosumeyah." She was a section editor of the yearbook as a junior and senior.
A unique element of this book is that it is accompanied by three ballads sung by one of the book's characters. These ballads and the music were all composed by Park and the music to one of the pieces is included in the book.
The book is a PG-rated medieval, romantic adventure taking place in England in 1300.
"In 1998, I spent 18 months in Italy teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ," Park said. "Seeing the castles and old Roman cities only added to the allure of ancient and medieval culture," Park said explaining her interest in all things medieval.
Costumes, recipes, musical instruments and medieval English speech are featured on her blog at: elsiepark.blogspot.com, giving a glimpse into the research she did for the novel.
The novel is set in Graywall, England, a town of contentment and prosperity. Lord Shaufton is a fine ruler but something dark is stirring. This darkness threatens to overpower the town, until a mysterious figure appears, The Shadow, a well-known enforcer of justice.
Due to an outrageous export tax set by King Edward, smuggling has tainted the land, so The Shadow is sent to hunt the smugglers down. Contrary to legend, The Shadow is simply a man known as Sir Calan who, although talented and just, struggles to keep his dark thoughts of revenge from becoming ruthless action. The Shadow learns of a deadly plot against Lord Shaufton and must enter a pseudo courtship with Lord Shaufton's daughter under his original guise of Sir Calan, all while old emotions are stirred by the lovely Elsbeth, Lord Shaufton's niece. Elsbeth, it seems, is the only woman who can heal his troubled soul, but she has a story of her own. What entails is a glorious tale full of deceit, greed, inner struggles, betrayal, and most of all-love.
Park's family moved to Oakhurst when she was two-years-old in 1979. Her father, Dr. Richard Rees, was the community's pediatrician for 25 years and mom, Lacey, with journalism training wrote for the "Sierra Star" and so her assistance editing "Shadows of Valor" was a natural.
Park and her siblings, Christopher (Kit), Barbara and Nathan all graduated from Yosemite High School. Childhood friends remember the Star Trek memorabilia at the Rees home.
"My parents being huge fans of Star Trek was well known in Oakhurst for sure, but my interest in writing came from the vast array of books my mom and dad kept in the house," Park said. "Countless periodicals including fairytales, science fiction, fantasy, trivia, biographies and history books helped transform me into an ultimate bookworm. I enjoyed reading The Hardy Boys mysteries, all fairy tales and fantasies such as the "Hobbit," "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe."
Park, now a resident of North Ogden, Utah, said anything with knights, ladies, dragons, magic, chivalry and themes where good triumphed over evil gripped her interest.
"It was really my avid reading that inspired my desire to write my own stories," Park said.
Park's husband, Chris, is a veteran of the armed forces and competitor in anything physically challenging including triathlons, marathons, biking and running. She is a mother to three girls, Rebekah, 8, Charity, 5, and Autumn, 22 months.
"When I started writing, I only had one 10-month-old child, but she took a lot of attention as 10-month-olds do," Park said. "And because my husband worked the midnight shift and slept during the day, I felt like a single mother much of the time, so I had to wait until my toddler took a nap or went to bed for the night before I sat down at the computer to type out scenes or compose music on my digital piano the piano had headphones so I didn't wake anyone up," Park said.
"Sometimes I'd still be up when my husband got home from his shift at 6 a.m. in the morning. I'd have a rough day with so little sleep, but I'd make it through with a nap during the day. Now, with three kids, and the youngest not always taking a daily nap, it's just as hard to find time to write because I put being a mother first and writing second. Now that school has started, however, I take my older ones to school and then return home to get some typing done while the youngest is still sleeping. Seems to be working out thus far. My computer desk currently sits in a corner of the family room. Maybe some day I'll have a separate room for writing," she added.
Her advice to young writers is "Never give up."
"Though it may be unnerving to put your work out there, having your first drafts read by others for suggestions is a great idea," Park said. "But don't be afraid of making revisions to improve your original manuscripts. Be open for criticism, but don't allow it to get you down. Keep plugging away no matter what criticisms you get. Believe in your story and believe in yourself as a writer. There is a way for anyone who's persistent to get published."
Park is now working on another story that takes place several years after "Shadows of Valor."
"I've taken a minor character from 'Shadows of Valor' and weaved a story around him," explained Park. "The story takes place in England again, but ventures into Scotland as well, drawing on the historical happenings and battles that took place between the countries at that time. You won't need to have read 'Shadows of Valor' to understand or enjoy my next book, for though the books share a common character, they are completely separate stories."
Park graduated from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, where she studied zoology, botany and criminal justice. She has worked as a wildland firefighter, security guard, a police officer, and is currently a stay-at-home mom.
Branches Books & Gifts: branchesbooks.com
Author Facebook: facebook.com/authorelsiepark
RSVP requested: (559) 549-6672
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press